District 13: Ultimatum

Posted February 4, 2010 in Film

In fall 2005, a race riot exploded in Paris that burned for 20 days. When the smoke from the 8,973 destroyed cars settled, the French government came down hard on its Arab and African immigrants, debating the revocation of their citizenship and deeming their rappers a state menace. Six months later, Luc Besson and director Pierre Morel unleashed District 13, an cartoonish stunt about a cop (Cyril Raffaeli) and an urchin (David Belle), both parkour champions, who team up to save a government-made ghetto from destruction. After they save the day, Paris pledges to rebuild the block. This inferior sequel, District 13: Ultimatum, growls that they haven’t. Worse, a special division called the Department of Internal State Security is trying to trigger a race war so they can convince the president to flatten the hood and replace it with condos built by a contractor called—wait for it—Harriburton. Luc Besson and new director Patrick Alessandrin approach politics like an Axe commercial, introducing us to the District with a three-minute montage of all things manly: weight-lifting, lip-snarling, drug-slanging, gun-toting, facial-tattooing, outrageous mustache-grooming. Like a cocky 14-year-old, it’s all bluster when we want grownup charm and menace. This would be half-forgivable if we at least got to geek out on some incredible parkour, but Alessandrin has nervously edited his film into a frenzy; when you chop up a balletic stunt into half-second bites, you serve up less, not more. Still, Raffaeli and Belle—both athletes first, actors second—enjoy their scenes together and make up for some of the ridiculousness with raw power. We meet Raffaeli wearing a chainmail thong and wig (don’t ask) and fending off two dozen baddies while protecting a €500 million Van Gogh and using the painting as a weapon. But we’re most impressed when he leaps into a car feet first through the closed window, as neatly and destructively as a shark. Belle’s exhausting rooftop to rooftop chase is a master class stunt—you can’t make much out of here, but after the credits, you’ll want to pull him up on YouTube.


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